Police Civilian Oversight Authority on Mission to Deliver


The Police Civilian Oversight Authority is beginning to gain traction, as it seeks to carry out its mandate of monitoring the operations of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and its auxiliaries, thus playing an integral role in enhancing the efficiency of the Force, and its relationship with the general public.
In an interview with JIS News, Chairman of the Authority, Roman Catholic Bishop of Montego Bay, Charles Dufour says such a body is relevant as, “people have been asking for this.” He explains that the Authority serves to “monitor the implementation of policy relating to the JCF and its auxiliaries; monitor the standards of performance of the force and the auxiliaries, so as to ensure that internationally accepted standards of performance are given; conduct inspections of the Force and its auxiliaries; monitor the management and use of financial and other resources of the police and its auxiliaries; perform other such functions as may be necessary for promoting the efficiency of the Force and its auxiliaries”.
Bishop Dufour informs that since its inception in 2005, the Authority has met on a monthly basis. Once per year a report is presented to the Minister of National Security, Dr. Peter Phillips and tabled in Parliament. Dr. Phillips has been invited to address some of the monthly meetings, as well as senior government officials; the Commissioner of Police, Lucius Thomas, and senior officers within the force, “as well as various members of the diplomatic and international community, along with members of the business community; various civic groups and other interested parties,” the Chairman says.
In addition, there are on-site visits to the various police divisions and stations. The first visit was made to the Hunts Bay police station in the St. Andrew South division, on November 28, last year. “At the end of the visit, we examined various aspects of the work, and a report was sent to the Minister and the Commissioner. The Authority is now following up on that report,” Bishop Dufour notes. “We also went to the Freeport division in St. James on May 15. Both visits involved meeting with members of the JCF across all ranks, as well as the inspection of specific areas of operation and administration. Whenever we finish a visit, each member writes a report, which is sent to the Minister and copied to the Commissioner of Police,” he adds.
An Act to establish the Authority was approved by the Houses of Parliament in December of 2005. It was envisioned that the Authority would act as a mechanism external to, and independent of the Force, to ensure accountability, adherence to policy guidelines and observance of proper policing standards by members of the JCF, thereby engendering increased public confidence. The legislation also provides for the functions of the Authority; the appointment of members of the Authority by the Governor-General, after consultation with the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition; and for an annual report to be made by the Authority to the Minister. It also serves to empower the authority, where the need arises, to refer matters to: the Police Services Commission, the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption, the Commissioner of Police, or the Minister for appropriate action. Under the Act, the Authority, in exercising its mandate, has the power to: require the attendance of the Commissioner or any other officer of the Force or auxiliaries; call for and examine documents and records; receive representations from members of the public in relation to the operation of the Force and auxiliaries; do all such things that are considered necessary, or expedient, for the purpose of carrying out functions under the Act. Bishop Dufour emphasises that the Authority has two main objectives, “assisting in enhancing the professionalism and efficiency of the Force and its auxiliaries; and positively raising the public’s perception of, and confidence in the Force.” He informs that the Authority plans to realize these goals by a number of strategies, such as Town Hall meetings. “For example in Montego Bay, we invite civic leaders, youth leaders, to come and have dialogue with us. So it’s not just going to stations and meeting in a room among ourselves. We are going to be interfacing with the public,” he says.
Recently appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Authority, Richard Black reiterates that, “our mandate requires that there is considerable interaction between ourselves and the public at large”.
To this end, he says the Authority has already begun to engage members of the public in various ways, such as town hall meetings, with the first formal one to be held soon. “We are considering initially, having it in one of our three counties, as opposed to parish by parish and the wider public within that region would be invited to attend. Persons would then be able to not only get information as to what we are about, but also (we would) hear from them their thoughts, concerns, ideas, wishes and hopes,” he points out. Mr. Black notes that increasing interaction is going to be critical over the next several months. “We will be talking with all the different groupings, engage them by inviting them to events that we will be conducting, or indicating to them that we will be available to attend various events that they will be conducting to speak about the wider issues of concern to do with the Force and safety of citizens.Every citizen has an input, but to get to over two million (people) will not be a reality, but what we can do is increase our presence in all the various groups that represent communities,” he says. As part of this public awareness drive, the Authority will also be developing educational material to inform citizens about their rights, as well as making them aware of the issues and the concerns that the police face each day. “Understanding is the start to a better relationship and what we are trying to do is provide information to the public at large, and to the Police, about the concerns that both sides have and hopefully develop greater understanding of some of the problems that are faced in all areas,” the CEO says.
The material will be provided in the form of booklets, brochures, and posters, which will also contain advice on how persons should behave if, for example, you are stopped by the Police. “Some people have no clue and they react in a way that might not be the best. We will develop material that talk about respect (for both sides). We want to look at developing information that speaks to things like customer service delivery.
It is important that all players in the game understand customer service delivery, and good interaction. We will be developing talks and presentations along these lines, packaged in different ways – short video clips of different scenarios,” he says.
“At the end of the day, we want to see a positive, effective and efficient police force that the community can feel 100 per cent confident in and be willing to work along with,” the CEO says, stressing that the Authority should not be perceived as witch-hunters, but instead, improving the relationship between the public and the force, by making both sides aware of the issues and finding better approaches to problems.
Critical to this is examining other models and best practices from territories that have successfully established oversight bodies.
“We are currently trying to identify models that more closely emulate what our mandate under the Act is. We are looking to countries such as the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Australia. The Australian and South African models are frequently touted as among the most excellent examples,” he says.
“It is important to understand that we are completely independent of the police in all areas. Many models have a function where that particular structure reports back to a Police Chief, or Commissioner, depending on the jurisdiction. Many will also have as part of their operational team, members of the police force. So we have to look at models that more closely resembles what we have been mandated to do,” the CEO explains. The Authority will then embark on studies of those models, including personal visits, “and visits by them to Jamaica, to see our situation and assist us in the fine-tuning of our programme,” he notes.
“We are also considering the possibility of having specific experts in the area of civilian oversight of law enforcement to consult with us for a period to develop even tighter programmes.The wheel is already invented elsewhere, so we will not reinvent, but rather examine the best practices and pick from each, those elements that appropriately match what we need,” Mr. Black says.
At the moment, the Authority is in the process of setting up its office in Kingston and hiring staff. Just last week, Senior Director for monitoring and inspection, Captain Craig Barham, was engaged. Other members of the Board include: Oliver Clarke, Chairman and Managing Director of the Gleaner Company; Dr. Patrick Allen, Chairman of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Jamaica; Rudolph Hamilton, retired Assistant Commissioner of Police; Arlene Harrison Henry, Attorney at law; and Gladstone Lewars of Price Waterhouse.

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